In trying to illustrate the true spirit of her catcher Bailey Hemphill, St. Thomas More softball coach Andria Waguespack swung for the fences.
“What was awesome is that she was on the Homecoming court, the (Cougar) Basketball Court and was prom queen,” Waguespack said. “When she wore her prom dress, she had on her Converse (tennis shoes). It fits who she is.”
Hemphill, an Alabama signee, will put on her softball spikes and conclude an extraordinary career in her home state, leading the West versus the East in the LHSAA/LHSCA all-star softball game at 6 p.m. Friday at Louisiana College.
A second game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday
“I’m honored to go and play,” Hemphill said. “It’s the best of the best, and that’s a big honor to be chosen to do that. I’m very excited to be able to compete.”
While her legacy may ultimately be measured in numbers and honors, Hemphill was simply more than one of the nation’s most feared power hitters and fundamentally sound basketball players.
She thrived academically, earning Utopian Graduate status during the school’s commencement exercises Tuesday, maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average, which included Advance Placement classes.
Hemphill was also a beloved mentor to disabled students as part of STM’s “Options Program.” The goal of the program is to help prepare students to transition from high school to independent living.
“She’s pure heart,” Waguespack said. “She’s a giver, who loves to laugh. She’ll pull a good prank, have a great time.”
She also just happens to be the most successful softball player the school has produced.
Hemphill has been named to a pair of All-American teams, a second-team mention after her junior year; a first team preseason selection before the 2016 season, with a third on the horizon.
“I’m more proud of the accomplishments we did as a team,” said Hemphill, a three-time all-state softball choice.
“After we won back-to-back state titles (2013-14) we lost a lot of seniors. People weren’t expecting us to be good, maybe mediocre at best. We exceeded those expectations.”
The four-year career numbers for Hemphill — who at 5-foot-10 cuts a menacing figure at the plate — are staggering.
Hemphill finished with a batting average of .568, 1.422 slugging percentage and .761 on-base percentage. Her 145 walks, which Waguespack believes half to be intentional, rank second nationally.
“My junior year it was very frustrating because I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team win,” Hemphill said. “This year I was more in control of my emotions. It was still aggravating, but I was doing my job.”
When pitchers challenged her, Hemphill was up to the task and wound up with 54 home runs — the fifth highest career total.
“I think I hit my first home run when I was 10,” Hemphill said. “The feeling that I could hit it over the fence was the coolest thing in the world.”
Based on her gaudy batting average, ability to draw walks and just eight strikeouts in 245 plate appearances, Hemphill’s objective wasn’t to be remembered for how far the ball traveled off her bat, but rather how far her teams went.
The same could be said for Hemphill’s role on this year’s STM basketball team that won the District 4-4A championship and reached the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Ursuline.
Hemphill’s contributions? The district MVP averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
“I’m going to miss the bond you make with your teammates … Those friendships I made with my teammates,” Hemphill said. “That’s what I’ll miss the most.”